Recently, the Wife and I visited Lancaster County, PA – aka Amish country – and decided to take a self-guided bike tour around the farmland. This was possible, despite my chronic illness, because Intercourse Bike Works rents electric bikes. I rode a Specialized Turbo, taking it up and down rolling hills along smoothly paved country roads. Three hours and twenty-seven miles later, I’m practically an expert.
Some electric bicycles have a “throttle” mode that allows the rider to forgo pedaling. The Specialized Turbo doesn’t have this, which came as an unwelcome surprise to me. It has only a “pedal assist,” or “pedelec,” system. Once the system senses torque from the rider, the electric motor quietly applies some of its own. So, to get the bike to move, I had to pedal.
In fact, the first time I pressed on the pedal, the bike (not the pedal) seemed to leap forward slightly. But I got used to this after only a few minutes. On the other end of things: at no point did the motor seem to propel me forward when I wanted to stop. Almost certainly this was because it requires pedaling.
The Specialized Turbo offered two ways for me to adjust my effort and speed. First, it had ten regular gears. Second, an electronic panel allowed me to adjust the level of boost from the motor – from none incrementally up to “Turbo.” It’s a heavy bike, so ‘none’ was hard pedaling. ‘Turbo’ was really easy, even up significant hills. Intermediate levels were … in between.
Here’s how easy it was. As I left the Conjugal Partner in the dust going up long hills, my heart rate remained between 90 and 110 – even after more than two hours of riding. My pulse would have been much faster – and my exertion much greater – if I’d been walking. Let me underline this: I was applying force constantly, but less than when walking on a flat surface.
But, if I’d wanted more of a physical challenge, I could have turned the motor down or off.
Riding a different model of electric bike might have been more satisfying – or less. The Specialized Turbo now costs $2500, which is middling these days, so some models must be even more plush. As stated above, I would have preferred to have the option of not pedaling at all.
But this electric bike made it possible for me to have a wonderful, lengthy jaunt through the countryside. I can see why people with regular commutes turn to electric bikes – they can avoid getting sweaty on the way to work, yet they can choose their level of exercise on the way home.